Editor’s note: Dan Turner is a dad from the District of Columbia who wrote to Secretary Tom Perez about the need for paid leave. Here is his letter. Read letters from other dads here.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
My company, TCG, is a government contractor with more than 110 employees. We’ve grown quickly, more than doubling since 2012. I’m writing to tell you about that year − the most difficult of my life so far.
In 2012, my 1-year-old son's food allergies sent him to the hospital four times. And my twin sons were born 12 weeks early, ultimately spending 150 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.
It was like my family was struck by lightning, cleaving it in two. My wife spent five months driving the 20 minutes back and forth to the NICU at least once, and sometimes two or three times, every day. She came back for dinner with the kids and then often went back there until late in the night.
I spent those five months being a stay-at-home dad to my older kids, who were then 1 and 3.
My company offered paid parental leave, though not nearly 5 months' worth, and employees could choose to purchase short-term or long-term disability. I hadn't purchased any for myself – as a young, healthy person, why would I need it? So the rest of the time, I used a combination of sick leave, vacation, comp time and unpaid leave, working only the occasional meeting that I had to attend. And we dug into savings, of course. The costs were substantial.
When my twins finally got out of the hospital, the final bill was north of $2.2 million. We are so amazingly lucky to have had good insurance. The District of Columbia’s Early Intervention program brought us the therapy that helped my kids learn to eat, talk, walk and function - I can't say enough good things about it. Today my twins are thriving, happy 4-year-olds.
Mr. Secretary, I'm immensely lucky. I’m lucky that my growing company had reached a point where it didn't need me day-to-day. I'm lucky that my company can now offer paid long-term and short-term disability insurance to everyone. And I'm lucky that we offer paid parental leave. This wasn't the kind of event that happens every day or even every year, but it does happen. If our society values families, we have a responsibility to support the people who are building them.
But we can’t rely on luck – paid leave has to be something everyone can access. That's why I support the paid family leave act proposed by the District council. The costs aren't small, but the benefits would be massive for my business. Most employees in my position would have had to quit or would have spent most of their time at work worrying about their kids. That's also a tough position for an employer because when a worker is dealing with that kind of distraction, productivity will decrease.
It’s a ridiculous position to put an employee or an employer in.
We must do all we can to fix this broken system.
Thank you for all you do,
We want to hear from other dads (and moms): How would having paid family leave make a difference for your family? If you have paid leave already, how does it help you now? Share your story at dol.gov/PaidLeave.